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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves.

Thinking positively can have a tremendous effect on our lives. By eliminating negative thoughts, we’re able to at least influence the part of our lives that we can control: our own mindset.

In this article, you will learn how to think positive and ditch the negative thoughts. Before we dive into the step-by-step guide on how to do so, I’d like to share with you how I learned to thinking positive the hard way…

At the start of 2019, I was quite stressed at work with multiple tight deadlines. I was constantly worried and the stress was affecting my ability to sleep. Numerous nights in a row, I would experience insomnia, where I had a staring contest with the ceiling because my mind would simply not stop thinking about all the stressful things I had to deal with.

I eventually got up and wrote everything down. Every single thought that rushed through my head, I wrote it down in detail. This allowed me to do a couple of things:

  • It made everything relatable
  • It showed me that every obstacle that was on my mind was not that big on its own. I was only stressed because these obstacles were big in numbers, while independently, these obstacles were just minor things that I could overcome.
  • It allowed me to think positively about these little obstacles and how I was going to conquer them one at a time.
  • Writing down my negative emotions allowed me to wipe them clean from my mind. Think of it as a laptop: after having browsed for a long time, I was able to clear my RAM and start fresh. My mind was finally clear from negative thoughts.

After doing this, I was finally able to sleep, and the next day, I slowly started to tackle these small obstacles.

This is just one example of how I manage to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts from dominating my mind.

Here are 4 actionable steps you can follow in order to think positive:

Step 1: Turn Every Obstacle into Smaller “Challenges”

In the intro, you read that I was stressed because I was worrying about a big number of small obstacles as opposed to one big devastating obstacle. Writing down my worries allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

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As a result, I observed my problems as single challenges that I could overcome.

When you’re currently surrounded with negativity – whether that’s because of a stressful project or problems in a relationship – you should try to dissect that challenge into different sub-challenges.

For example, if you have to deliver a huge presentation at work on Friday, try to think of this big task as multiple smaller tasks:

  • Find sources to support your presentation
  • Think of interesting anecdotes, introductions or examples
  • Create a general outline of your presentation
  • Complete the first 5 slides
  • Add a small video or puzzle to your presentation
  • Finish the presentation
  • Think of a keyword for each slide to remember what you have to say
  • Practice the presentation in order to finish it within 30 minutes
  • Deliver a great presentation

While this example may not be relevant to you, the message is all the same. You can tackle pretty much any obstacle – no matter how big it may seem – as long as you take it one step at the time.

That’s how you can eliminate negative thoughts such as “I can never do that” or “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’ll never reach that goal” from controlling your actions.

Take it one step at the time and pretty much any goal becomes manageable.

Step 2: Realize That Positive Thoughts Can Be a Choice

Happiness is determined as follows:[1]

  • 50% is determined by genetics
  • 10% is determined by external factors
  • 40% is determined by your own outlook

This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:

Your happiness can be influenced by your own thoughts.

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Even though there are things in life that we cannot control, we can still often control how we react to these things.

In that sense, we might not get to control 100% of our happiness but we can still influence a big chunk of it.

I believe we can learn to influence the 40% of our happiness that is determined by our own personal outlook. Happiness is a choice, and you can learn to recognize these situations on your own.[2]

How does this help you to think positive and eliminate negative thoughts?

Well, because this shows you that it pays off to learn how to think positively in difficult situations.

By developing this skill, you can really increase happiness in your life. It is definitely not always easy, but you can change a bad day into a good one just by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.

This is the reason why I love this quote of Winston Churchill:

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Step 3: Spend Time with the People That Have a Positive Influence on Your Life and Be Grateful for Them

Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your life.

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I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness. These people can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your challenges with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do to initiate positive thoughts; and that’s to be grateful that these people are in your life:

  • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
  • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
  • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
  • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help you in thinking more positively and eliminating negative thoughts?

Well, the answer is simple.

Being grateful forces you to think of the good things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism, instead of negativity. People that actively practice gratitude are much better able to deal with toxic emotions.

So what do you have to do?

Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life.

To help inspire you to feel more grateful, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

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Step 4: Don’t Give up After a Setback

So you had a bad day last week? Or maybe a terrible week in which you allowed negative thoughts to control your life? Who cares!

We are only human, so we’re bound to experience a day of negativity every once in a while. It’s important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences negative thoughts in their life. Eternal happiness does not exist. Even the happiest man alive has experienced negativity and sadness on some days.

What you need to when this inevitably happens to you:

  • Don’t let this set you back.
  • Don’t interpret it as a failure
  • Don’t let it stop you from trying to think positive

You see, even the most optimistic person experiences negativity on occasion. Sure, we can try to be as positive as possible every day, but we have to accept that negativity is something that we have to deal with from time to time.

So what if you’re engulfed in negative thoughts today? Screw it and know that tomorrow is a new day and that you can try to work on this again.

Take a look at this article and learn about Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).

Final Thoughts

In the end, there’s no arguing that we cannot control 100% of our happiness. We can’t stand in front of a mirror, repeat the words “I am thinking happy thoughts only” ninety-nine times and accept to suddenly be happy.

It doesn’t work like that.

However, there are a number of things we can do to at least improve our mindset in the situations where we do get to choose how we react to external factors.

I hope that you have a better idea of what you can do in these situations. Sooner than later, you will influence your own mindset to think positively and to eliminate negative thoughts.

More About Positivity And Happiness

Featured photo credit: Lucas Marconnet via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] For a State of Happiness: Happiness: it’s not just your genes, stupid!
[2] Tracking Happiness: How Happiness Can Be A Choice

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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